HOUSTON – In 1976, two Houstonian’s lives would change, but they wouldn’t know it until decades later.
Two next-door neighbors reconnected because of the pandemic. Now, they hope their story of love and divine timing will inspire others.
Mark Mitchell, 56, grew up at his parents’ home in Hedwig Village in the Memorial area.
In October of 1976, the Mitchell family had a new neighbor. The Grillo family moved in next door.
”I’ve always felt we had a rendezvous with destiny,” Mitchell said.
Next door would be a family with daughters, one of them, the oldest, was then 11-year-old Margarita Grillo who is now 55 years old.
“We moved next door in 1976 and his parents had a get-together at their house,” Grillo.
The two ended up together - smitten. Their love story, though, is very unique. The pair never dated until four decades later.
“Just joy. Just happiness,” Grillo said.
“I think, ‘My God, how did I grab this girl?’ This is amazing,” Mitchell said.
Proof that sometimes you just can’t hurry love.
“I think God was just saving us for the right time,” Grillo smiled.
Especially considering, Grillo was literally the girl next door. Their unique love story begins when Grillo first visited the family for a dinner to welcome them to the neighborhood. Grillo saw Mark and fell in love. She was 11 years old.
“I was like, ‘Wow!’ when I saw him. I just couldn’t believe it,” Grillo said.
“I had a big, big crush on her,” Mitchell laughed.
For years, the two would help each other. Grillo would write letters and notes supporting Mitchell’s tennis endeavors. Mitchell would teach her too. Their parents loved the idea of the two getting together. However, as life would have it, the two grew up, got jobs, and lost touch.
“So, fast forward 44 years!” laughed Grillo.
January 2020, Grillo and Mitchell ran into each other at the grocery store, however, Grillo was not able to talk because she was so busy with a lot of work on her plate. When the pandemic, hit things changed.
”Life just came to a standstill. That’s how it felt,” Grillo said.
Grillo’s workplace closed. Grillo, with a lot more time on her plate, decided she would text Mitchell and ask about his parents and how they were doing during the pandemic.
After an initial conversation, on Easter weekend in 2020, their bond grew.
“I texted him and we text for 12 hours from 9 pm to 9 am,” Grillo said.
It was during that Easter weekend that Grillo let Mitchell know about how she felt about him and their love blossomed.
“1 o’clock let’s cut this off, 2 o’clock let’s cut this off. I just thought to myself after 3 o’clock, finally, I just said, ‘To heck with it! We’ll just go all night!” Mitchell said.
It was love in the time of COVID.
”Texting, talking, Facetime,” Grillo said.
“If it took a pandemic for this to happen, then maybe it was worth it!” Mitchell said.
A month or so later, Mitchell proposed to Grillo with his mother’s ring.
”I guess I’ve been waiting my whole life for this and I feel very lucky that my moment has finally come,” Mitchell said.
The two will be married in July.
“It’s a miracle. I really feel like it’s a miracle that God brought us together,” Grillo said.
Grillo read from her childhood diary.
“I love Mark. I really do. I think he is so cute,” Grillo read.
Forty-four years later, those words still ring true.
“July can’t get here soon enough as far as I’m concerned!” Mitchell said.